Inter and Atalanta drew 1-1 on a slippery and rainy Stadio Atleti Azzurri d’Italia in Bergamo in a match that will go down in history more for how both teams battled it out in the middle of the pitch, if remembered at all.
No this wasn’t exactly a display of what is known in Brazil as ‘Joga bonito’, but then again no-one had expected it to be either. However if you expected to see a home-side who was going to put pressure as well as stress the life out of the away team from Milano from the beginning of the match, well you got more than you were waiting for as Atalanta put the pedal to the metal from the second Nicola Rizzoli blew his whistle. Atalanta pressured Inter’s midfield trio into the laps of the three-man defense whilst easily playing the ball away around them out on the wings and therefore maximizing the acres of space left behind Inters two wingers, when the brilliant Cigarini time and time again played out pinpoint passes into that area where Moralez and Livaja crossed the ball to German Denis to dive on to the cross like a Kamikaze-pilot. This is exactly what happened when Atalanta equalized after Carmona and Cigarini closed down Ricky Alvarez who lost the ball to Cigarini and who passed it out to Moralez who crossed it for German Denis who, moments before latching on the cross, gave Walter Samuel a slight nudge in the back giving him all the advantage he needed to win the aerial challenge and head the ball home.
Generally speaking the defense looked shaky as usual, especially in the first half, where it was clear for all to see that Walter Samuel was anything but matchfit as he misread several sutuations but his presence on the pitch alone seemed to provide Juan Jesus with the leadership on the pitch that the young Brazilian needs in order to give a solid performance. To the right of the three-man defense Rolando took care of all long passes towards the attacking players with great precision whilst also not putting a foot wrong in his defensive assignments and was generally speaking as solid as we’ve gotten used to seeing him perform in the 4 previous fixtures he’s played so far this season. Rolando is looking better and better with every fixture and maybe when Campagnaro is deemed fit enough to play the three-man defense will consist of from the right Campagnaro, Rolando and Juan Jesus. Only time will tell what Mazzarri has in mind however it’s very reassuring for Mazzarri to see that he has more options in the central defense should any players performance drop in form, now that the injury situation is looking better than it has in ages, at least in that department of the team.
In the middle of the park Cambiasso was just as intelligent and just as ballwinning as we’ve grown accustomed to this season, Ricky Alvarez ran constantly and linked excellently with Kovacic when going forward. The young Croat still clings on to the ball a little bit too much but gave an allround solid performance, especially when driving upp the tempo when Inter attack in a very impressive way. Granted, sometimes it looked as though he lost possession far too easyly at times but that was more due to the slippery conditions than anything else as watching his combinations with Alvarez together with his charging runs forward with the ball glued to his foot, warms the heart of this old pessimistic Interista. Maybe Mazzarri will consider allowing Kovacic and Alvarez to simply swap positions with each-other on the pitch in order to get the most out of each player. Fredy Guarin? Well he certainly didn’t have a good evening. He never gave up and fought tooth and nail to win the ball but the quality of his passes was awful if not embarassing and he was rightly substituted for a very energetic Mauro Icardi midway through the second half.
Up front Palacio ran tirelessly as usual and it was his clever header which assisted Ricky Alvarez to open up the scoreline but other than that this wasn’t his best performance given that ‘Rodrigol’ is one of the players who has played the most so far this season. Which is why Belfodil’s stupid sending off feels even more stupid than it did when he was shown the red card after the final whistle against Hellas because today Belfodil would have most likely started the match and Mazzarri would be able to field both Palacio and Icardi as the Atalanta players grew tired in the second half and maybe Inter could have snatched the victory tonight after the duo had been substituted on halfway through the second half. However, as the famous Jiddisch saying so eloquently suggests that “if my grandmother had balls she’s been my grandfather” Inter shouldn’t dwell on this fact to much. Instead Inter should be satisfied that the team was able to come away with a point away to a very strong home team, especially given Handanovic’s injury which forced him to come off at half time (which thankfully turned out not to be too serious), and also because we had Icardi who isn’t 100% matchfit just yet on the bench to back-up a tired Palacio. Also when considering that if Atalanta had been a bit more lucky tonight they could have put the match beyond doubt in the first half when they outplayed Inter.
It’s easy to forget that this season is year zero in Inter’s project, especially for supporters who after 3 seasons of chaos are craving success, however one would be wise to remember that Inter during Mourinho’s first season got destroyed in this fixture 1-3, just like during last seasons encounter, whilst also remembering that during the special Portuguese managers special treble-winning year we managed to come up with the same result as we did tonight.
Coming up on Sunday at 3 p.m. CET Inter have to travel to yet another difficult away match against an Udinese who are itching to get back to winning ways at home after the unlucky defeat against Roma, and if Inter can get at least a point from this fixture, the team will have only suffered on defeat in the first 11 games of the season, to compare with last years 3. Sure, last year the team had won 8 matches in comparison to this years 5 (alternatively 6 depending on whether or not we beat Udinese on Sunday) but with the big difference that this season Inter draw in games where the team isn’t playing well, something Inter where unable to do last season.